We can cap injury claim payouts says ISME
SMALL firms body Isme has taken issue with a Government report on the cost of public liability insurance.
The report argues there is a constitutional difficulty capping the level of courts awards, but legal advice Isme has received contradicts this.
Isme was reacting to the Cost of Insurance Working Group report, issued at the end of last month, on public liability and employer liability insurance.
The employer body said it was disappointed that the working group, chaired by Minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael D'Arcy, was not more forthright in calling for a capping of injury award levels. One of the recommendations in the report is a call for the Law Reform Commission to consider the need for a cap on personal injuries awards.
But in referring to legislative limits on damages, the report said "there is a general view that there are constitutional limitations to such an approach".
ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell, pictured, said: "The association calls on Minister D'Arcy to reconsider his working group's views on the constitutionally of introducing caps on general damages." Mr McDonnell said his association acknowledges that the working group report has recognised the inconsistent and unpredictable manner in which courts decide general damages awards.
This must be urgently addressed. The Personal Injuries Commission also needs to have a policy-holder's representative in its membership, he said.
"All objective data point to Ireland's general damages regime being too generous for minor injuries, and our cost of insurance being too high.
"Despite this, the Cost of Insurance Working Group report suggests there could be significant constitutional or property rights issues with capping awards. This is simply untrue," he said.
Mr McDonnell said the principle that awards for general damages can be capped has been conclusively established in Irish case law and in statute.
He also called on the Government to consider abandoning the payment of general damages in personal injuries cases.
Instead, it wants a "care-not- cash" rehabilitation model, with a constitutional amendment, if necessary.
The Alliance for Insurance Reform also expressed disappointment with the report, saying it mainly consists of calls for more reports and analysis.
Peter Boland of the Alliance said Ireland remained a Republic of opportunity for the insurance industry and the legal profession, with businesses and charities bled dry from sky-high premiums.